Substantive short articles on Marxian sociology

Understanding how workplace occupations win

Workplace occupations – sometimes also known as workplace sits-ins – often take on an iconic status within the annals of the international labour movement. Many on the left simply conclude that direct action works. But this shows a deficiency in understanding the interaction of processes and outcomes at work and the specificity of the conditions under which they operate. The successful occupation and work-in at Burntisland Fabrications (BiFab) in Scotland in 2017 can be used as a lens by which to reconsider the contemporary utility of the tactic and the frequency of its usage. With BiFab, there was manifest group cohesion, generation of a usable bargaining asset, ability to create political pressure, buoyant product demand, and the strategic importance of energy infrastructure.

By |2019-01-19T18:47:38+00:00Jan 15, 2019|

Down with neoliberalism . . . as a concept

It is only the left who talk about neoliberalism. Our opponents don’t use the concept so we are not engaging with them when we speak a different language. At best, because the term has been used in so many different ways, we almost always need to re-trace our steps to establish what exactly we mean by neoliberalism. Worse, the term lends itself to mirror-image inversions of the facile libertarian mantra that the market is good and the state bad. Ultimately, the term neoliberalism is misleading – not a tool but an obstacle to working out how the world works and how it changes. Nor does it help us identify what we should do.

By |2018-12-19T13:59:39+00:00Dec 19, 2018|

Lexit: Did it ever really exist?

During the EU referendum in the UK in 2016, although Brexit was championed mainly by the right, there was a significant left-wing argument for withdrawal, termed Lexit. Yet today, we are none the wiser of what a coherent Lexit approach might look like. Lexiters from the Socialist Workers Party and the left-wing newspaper, Morning Star, all maintain that a withdrawal from the EU must include a withdrawal from all its institutions including the single market and customs union. But rather than offer a positive vision, Lexiteers instead to point to the damage that leaving the EU will do to global capitalism in the long run. Academics that supported Brexit from the left have put forward ideas that would give us some idea of what a Lexit would look like. The results of these have been, quite frankly, embarrassing. A collection of ‘ideas’ and ‘recommendations’ are put forward that merely re-enforce the nationalism of the Brexit vote itself.

By |2019-01-02T01:56:44+00:00Dec 5, 2018|

Green paradoxes: How climate change policy preserves climate change causes

Why are societies failing to effectively respond to climate change? Why is it that “environmental degradation increases amid the growth of environmental attention and concern”? Environmental sociologists have examined many possible confounding factors, including The inadequacy of mainstream climate policies. We build upon the latter analysis by drawing from the Marxist conception of ideology as ideas and practices that conceal social contradictions. We argue that dominant climate policy mechanisms (“green” markets, technology, and growth) are based on assumptions that conceal a “capital-climate contradiction” or a “technical potential-productive relations contradiction.”

By |2018-11-26T09:24:02+00:00Nov 26, 2018|

The state and financialization: explaining recent European labor market policy

The financialized nature of current European political economy has pushed governments to pursue policies which are hostile to workers’ interests, even when these may disrupt stability and growth. Two policies in particular – punitive active labor market policies (i.e. workfare) and pan-European wage restraint – have both been unconvincing as drivers of growth and employment, and neither appear to contribute to institutional stability. But both have been aggressively implemented by many European states in spite of these failings.

Dispossession through delivery: With and against Polanyi(ans)

Can governments do nothing but oscillate between the market-led destruction of social life and what used to answer to the name “the welfare state”? Levenson challenges this opposition, taking as his implicit point of departure that dispossession is not only an ongoing process central to neoliberalism, but to capitalism tout court.

By |2018-10-31T11:05:16+00:00Oct 31, 2018|

Is sociology stuck in the middle? The uses of Marxist general theory

In sociology today, especially exemplified by the rise of analytical sociology, Merton’s middle range dominates. But should it? Marx probably would have viewed much of middle rage theory as residing at “the level of appearances” with deeper hidden causes. But that is not to say that appearances are inconsequential. Even things that are caused themselves carry their own weight in the world. It is just to say that Marxism argues that any particular thing cannot be fully explained without analyzing the hidden social reality behind that thing. General theory’s challenge for sociologists is to put seemingly isolated social processes into a broader whole or structure. Marxism identifies structures, processes, and mechanisms that matter for a wide range of more particular social questions. This includes revolutions, racial formation, bureaucratic organizations, the division of housework, and so on.

By |2018-10-25T12:22:18+00:00Oct 24, 2018|